How we do it: Organizing our Home

To catch you up to speed in case you’ve missed it, the last two Tuesdays were a little different than the lovely photography posts you typically see around here. I’ve been blogging a new series all about Organization alongside my friend Emily, and so far we’ve covered:

Organizing our Time (Em’s Post and Nancy’s Post)
Organizing our Finances (Em’s Post and Nancy’s Post)

Today, I’m really excited to talk about Organizing our Homes!

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Let me be the first to say I feel rather unqualified in this realm, for a few reasons: first, I am nostalgic about everything. I keep more things than I should because of fond memories attached to them. Second, I hate waste. So it’s hard for me to throw something away when I feel like I might have a use for them one day. But I’m learning that in order to have the clutter free home I want, I have to take authority over the stuff and get it out of the house!

TBH, I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on my home before children. I read over my original home organization post from a few years ago, and a smirk came over my face with a hearty… “Mwahahaha oh what it was like before children!!” Now I’m two beautiful little girls into motherhood, and it’s another level of home organization that you have to keep up with, and wayyyy less time to manage it. (CanIgetanAMEN?) But instead of letting this defeat me, I want it to inspire me to do more about my home’s organization on a more consistent basis than I ever did before. But let’s be real: I’m still working on it. (I.E. nursing a baby takes up allll my time.)

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While I do have some simple things that have helped me through the years, I humbly want to point you in the direction of 3 valuable resources that will help you get your home organized if you feel it’s out of control. If you’re anything like me, you need a solid pep talk and at least 10 reminders that stuff is only STUFF and it’s time to deal with it!:

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
A Simplified Life – Reading this now. The first chapter makes me want to clean out my home a million and one times.
2 Second lean – a business book (FREE audiobook!) that has really changed the way I think about my home’s management!

Now that you have the best resources to give you a swift kick to the booty on home organization, here are the principles and habits we endeavor to live by in the Ray household!

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Pursue LESS

For some reason, we always want more. I certainly fit in this category. I want the most adorable new trinkets from the Magnolia line at Target, even if I have no place to put them. I want a cute new striped shirt, even though I have 5. Why? I think it’s our culture and our lack of contentment. So we aim to pursue LESS in our home, making use of everything we own, and being generous with the things we don’t wear or use anymore. This is why I do my own contentment challenge at least once a year! You have to be intentional in this area and focus on all that you have – not the things you don’t.

1. Chase after contentment (and take the Contentment Challenge if you haven’t already)
2. Find a ministry to donate to regularly (Raleigh folks – we love With Love From Jesus)
3. Don’t sell anything unless it’s value is over $100 (just two weeks ago I spent the better part of my afternoon listing things to sell. I have now vowed I won’t do it again for such small items! I’d rather bless people who need it. There are better ways to spend my time.)
4. Keep a gratitude journal. It fosters a mindset of abundance instead of lack!

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A place for everything, & everything in it’s place

This simple principle helps to stop me in my tracks several times a day, as I put things down in places they shouldn’t go because it’s convenient or easy. I realize it’s just making more work for myself later if I choose the convenient option in the moment! Now of course there’s grace – you better believe when the baby is crying, I drop everything into a giant pile on the kitchen table and/or floor. But for the most part…

• Every time I come in from the car, I bring all trash and bags with me
• Every time I come inside, I put the keys on the key ring
• When Milly gets home from preschool, I unload her backpack and lunchbox immediately and hang them up
• Dirty laundry goes in the hamper – not the floor
• Shoes go in the closet – not at the foot of our bed (I’m terrible about this)

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Form tidy habits

Piggy backing off of the list I just wrote describing “putting everything in their place,” this is a list of habits we are trying to form constantly. This is so hard at first! But this, I believe, this the key to keeping your home organized. Here is a quick list of our habits: some we are still working on becoming 2nd nature, others we don’t even think about them anymore… we just do them!

• If something is sitting at the top of the stairs, take it downstairs. If something is sitting at the bottom of the stairs, take it upstairs.
• Put the car keys on the key ring
• Do 1 load of laundry every single day: fold and put away too!
• Immediately sort and file mail into our folders in our kitchen:
William
Nancy
NRP
To shred
To file
Bills
Coupons

• Once a week, clean out your kitchen files and put them in your main home filing system. We have a filing cabinet with the following folders and more: car insurance, bank accounts, life insurance, hoa, Winston, investments, giving, vacations, water bill, gas bill, etc.
• Donate on a regular basis

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Stick to a Budget

As crazy as it sounds, sticking to a monthly budget decreases spending and unnecessary clutter in a big way. I have found that when your finances are organized, your home also follows suit. Call me crazy, but it’s true! You are intentional about your dollars and the stuff doesn’t accumulate so easily.

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Finally, I’m bringing back “The Ray’s Unspoken Rules” because I think it’s helpful to identify what any unspoken rules might be for your household! We’ve added a few more since having kids!

The Ray’s unspoken rules:

The kitchen is clean and the coffee is made before bedtime every evening so we can wake up to a fresh start. We both pull weight to make sure this happens.

If something is left on the stairs, you grab it and take it upstairs. No matter who it is, no matter whose stuff it is!

If it takes less than a minute, do it immediately.

Always take everything out of your car every single time you come inside: water bottles, every little piece of trash, receipts, coffee tumblers, books, briefcases, photography equipment, jackets. Anything that goes in your car must come out!

Check your mail folders regularly.

Keep snacks in the diaper bag fresh by always putting them back in the pantry when you get home.

Always ask your spouse before throwing something of his/hers away.

If you are the one to eat the last of something, it’s up to you to put it on the grocery list.

Communicate about who is doing what household chores.

•••

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I’m curious – what systems do you have in your home!? Or what system did you read today that might be new to you? Leave a comment!

And don’t forget to read Emily’s post on home organization! Last time I was at her house, I was eyeing her tupperware of party supplies in her closet. That girl GETS home organization!

Where we’ve been and what’s coming up:

Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Home: Emily’s post
January 30: Personal Life
February 6: Work
February 13: Relationships
February 20: Spiritual Life
February 27: Kids

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  • I've been reading A Simplified Life, too, and it's been helping me so much! The kitchen cleaning if happening today/tomorrow--dreading it and looking forward to it at the same time.

    I do the stair thing as well. It's just such a useful place to put things! I try to clean up for a clean slate the night before but it's rougher going; I'm usually so tired that it's hard to do one more thing. But I will persevere here. The coffeemaking the night before is KEY to happy.

    I'm terrible about car stuff. I usually do a car clean-out once a week to keep me on top of those things.

  • Samantha Anderson said:

    Great tips. On an unrelated note, where is that Irish Blessing sign ("Come at Evening") from? I LOVE it and would love to find a similar one!

  • Pingback : How we do it: Organizing our Personal Lives | Nancy Ray Photography

  • Lisa said:

    Your unspoken rules are spot on!

    We follow similar guidelines, also unspoken. We also use trello to keep track of our chores, to-do lists, and major projects and meet on Thursdays for a few minutes to check-in. We've discovered that doing this on Thursdays gives us the space to see what needs to happen over the weekend when we have more time.

  • Hannah said:

    Love reading these posts! What does your file system look like in your kitchen? Cute enough to leave on the counter or stored in a cabinet? I'm working on a better system for our mail and I have a little mail sorter thing but I am interested in the folder system! Thanks for sharing!